Nancy Dawson Mezzotint
(Picture: 10.5"x8" Stand: 11.5"x6"x8")
Depicted in this lovely portrait is the British dancer Nancy Dawson (c. 1728–1767). Dawson, née Ann Newton, was popular in London and known for her hornpipe, a type of dance common in Ireland and Britain. While not much is known of her life, she was one of the few dancers to be immortalized in print. The portrait has been made using a type of printing method known as mezzotint. This method of print creates images not through the use of lines, but rather through the use of different tones and shades, creating soft, almost pastel-like works of art. At this time, mezzotints were printed with black ink. This print, therefore, is likely to have been hand coloured, which was a common practice for prints. Beyond providing the name of the sitter, the inscription beneath the portrait also mentions the name of the printer, James Watson (c. 1740–1790), and the person for whom the print was made, John Bowles (1701–1790). Watson was one of the leading mezzotint printers in London, though he hailed from Ireland. Bowles was British and worked in his family business of publishing prints. It is believed that Dawson was Bowles’s mistress. This portrait provides a fascinating glimpse into the lives of Londoners in the 18th century and is a beautiful example of the mezzotint medium. It is sure to be a wonderful addition to any historical or art historical collection.
At this time in history Britain was experiencing an eventful century; while many scientific discoveries and industrial developments were being made, great works of poetry, theatre, and opera were also being written and performed in London for the first time. Politically, however, the century was marked with multiple wars, including the Seven Years Wars from 1756–1763, in which Prussia and Britain fought against France and Austria.